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People Helping People

Lessons learned from three years supporting social action innovations to scale

We know that when people help other people it creates stronger communities and higher levels of social capital – economic, social and wellbeing. This kind of social action transforms lives, helping students who have fallen behind at schools to catch up, job seekers to find work, isolated older people to feel connected and less lonely and more.

That’s why Nesta and the Cabinet Office have together invested £14.5 million in the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund over the last three years to:

• Develop a pipeline of social action innovations across a range of priority outcome areas.
• Support the most promising innovations to grow their impact, including building robust evidence of what works.
• Enable a small number of proven innovations to achieve impact at significant scale.

Through this work, we have supported 52 innovations, and more than 70,000 generous people across England have given their time and expertise to help nearly 175,000 people to date. Innovations leveraged a further £18 million of investment as they have grown and some have reached significant scale, able to deliver their services to any public service in England that commissions them. For example, any primary school can now request a Code Club, any local authority a Shared Lives Plus caring scheme, any Ambulance Trust a GoodSAM first responder scheme, any GP surgery a Breathe Easy group or Diabetes UK peer support group, any job centre a CIPD Steps Ahead mentor, any Prison Governor a User Voice Council, any city a GoodGym and so on. And any older person can call a Silverline call centre and any young person can receive a Get Connected advisor.

This has been a significant achievement and the case for highly targeted social action having a positive influence on people’s lives is beginning to be made. The scope for advancing the use of social action to support public services and better outcomes remains large, however.